Niam Yaraghi: Non-MU drivers will spur more doc adoption of EHRs

Physicians will continue to adopt electronic health records even though the Meaningful Use program's funds have "dried up," according to Niam Yaraghi, a fellow at the Brooking Institution's Center for Technology Innovation.

In an opinion article in US. News and World Report, Yaraghi points out that despite the billions of dollars spent on the incentive program, only half of U.S. office based doctors have a basic EHR and only 20 percent are using them.

However, there are three drivers that will still spur physicians to adopt EHRs in the future, he says. The first is that EHR vendors, which have focused on marketing to hospital-based physicians or those in urban areas, will turn their marketing efforts to smaller practices "now that the low hanging fruits are all harvested." In addition, he says, the increased trend in mergers, acquisitions and affiliations in the healthcare industry, fueled in large part by payment reform, makes the use of EHRs an "unavoidable necessity."

Data analytics tools also will help move physicians toward EHRs.

"The healthcare industry is gradually getting out of the data collection era and is now entering into the data analysis era," Yaraghi writes. "When doctors see tangible benefits of analytics tools such as Isabel and Watson that are based on their electronic health record data, they will flock to such systems powered by analytics tools."

The number of physicians reported to have adopted EHRs tends to vary; for instance, ONC has recently stated that more than 80 percent of ambulatory physicians have adopted EHRs. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Meaningful Use program itself has been only partially successful in moving providers to adopt the systems.

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